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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Can we stop maternal deaths?
Mother breastfeeding her baby as she waits for a doctor
How safe is motherhood in Africa? Are you a worried mother-to-be?

When world leaders meet at the UN World Summit this week they will discuss how close countries are to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which are meant to reduce poverty and improve millions of lives.

One of these goals is to reduce the number of women who die while giving birth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than half a million women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth every year - that's one death every minute and in Africa, this means one woman in 16 dies.

What is it like being pregnant in Africa? Are you hopeful or fearful? Do you think that your health facilities are good enough? How can we stop women from dying during childbirth?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Queues in a crowded hospital

Being pregnant in Africa is like watching the sun going down before you get home. It's all gloomy and there's no light shining down the way, only uncertainty and desperation. African nations must fight against all odds to extend health care to those who remain far from reach.

In Mozambique, for instance, in the Zambezia central province populations must cross the Zambezi River in search of medical care. The crossing takes three days and the pregnant may either give birth on the slow sailing boats or find death before reaching the other side of the river.
Leonel Muchano, Maputo, Mozambique

Being pregnant could be fun, but many African women are lost in a world without male support
Florence, Nigeria

Being pregnant could be fun, but many African women are lost in a world without male support, once they are pregnant. I went through pregnancy alone and finally had a Caesarean Section. I think if he was around the story would have been different. It was a terrible experience, but the joy of seeing the child kept me.

Maternal death can be prevented if women are able to plan beforehand - to get physically fit and have medical check-ups in advance. They should have fewer children - three is okay. And the children should be well spaced, to allow the woman to regain her strength. Their husbands should love them even more through the period of pregnancy.
Florence, Nigeria

I am a nurse. I have seen and experienced the pain of a mother and child dying. The main cause of these deaths is lack of equipment. We have the staff - doctors and nurses - but we lack equipment.
Andrew Lulanga, Malawi/RSA

An educated African woman, with a sense of empowerment and control over her body, is the only way we can even come close to reducing the number of maternal deaths in Africa. She should be educated in health, nutrition, hygiene, family planning, birth control etc.
Ada Nwachuku, USA

Maternal deaths in Africa are being accelerated by Africans adopting the western culture of treating pregnancy as a disease. How come our mothers and grandmothers used to have up to 13 children in the villages without medical help? Nowadays, with the so-called improved health facilities, maternal deaths in Africa are soaring.
Sofi Malinga, Uganda

A lot relies on our leaders
Gregory Okomba, Nigeria

I believe we can stop the deaths, but a lot relies on our leaders. When they can stop stacking the money, that is intended for hospitals and jobs, in their overseas accounts, then there is hope for expectant mothers.
Gregory Okomba, Nigeria

To be pregnant in Africa is to be haunted by the ghost of death - either before childbirth, during labour, or soon after birth. Women are not happy during their entire nine months.
Rabbyce Kittermaster, Malawi/Switzerland

Yes, I do think maternal death can be eradicated from African countries if our corrupt governments stop using our little resources on weapons and expensive cars and then put more effort in educating our sisters and mothers.
Swaray Alieu, USA

In Africa, it is obvious that many women die during delivery. As a science student, I believe maternal and infant mortality is often as a consequence of female genital mutilation (FGM). I therefore entreat the United Nations world summit to debate on FGM and pass a resolution to abolish it.
Prince Fiifi Yawson, Accra, Ghana

Being pregnant in Africa is tragic if you come from a poor family. Either God will help you deliver safely or by bad luck you or the baby may die during birth. Only those who have the money to afford the hospital and clinic fees can be saved during a difficult delivery. A minister can send off a close relative to deliver overseas, whereas a poor woman is expected to deliver in a remote village under the supervision of local medicine women alone. It is only strong belief, spiritual power and the natural desire to have children that keeps the hope of a poor pregnant woman alive.
Odur Onyokuman, Australia

Every positive change in Africa has to begin by combating poverty and corruption. Some of our mothers die of complications in pregnancy or childbirth, not because there are no health facilities, but simply because they could not afford to give a bribe. Why is it that such cases are mostly in public hospitals and not private ones?
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

Being pregnant in Africa is like having an unknown disease. The first problem you are plagued with is the number of taboos which one should strictly follow to make the delivery safe and give birth to a healthy baby. One of the things that should be done to solve the high maternal death rates is to empower women with knowledge and finance. Secondly, services like good roads, clean hospitals and trained hospital staff can go a long way.
Aminata Mahoi, Sierra Leone

I am a 56-year-old Ethiopian residing in USA. When my mother died due to birth complications, I was only 12-years-old. I vividly remember the day. Medicine women (locally known by the name "Awaladge") were sitting by her bed, massaging her stomach and spitting gnawed plant leaves and roots all over her body.

After two days suffering, she became unconscious and they took her to the hospital where she died. The question: Can we stop maternal deaths, opened a scar in my heart. The government and local civic leaders need to wake up and find a way to save the lives of our mothers and sisters.
Yemane, Cedar Hill, TX

I know sometimes it is difficult working and not being paid, but sometimes our nurses do not seem to care. One of my cousins died at childbirth. I kept hearing her crying, until those were the last words I heard from her. I think nurses ought to be proud that they have brought a little Mr or Miss into the world.
Stephen SM Bendah, Liberian in Ghana

If there is anything that the current Aids treatment initiatives have taught us, it is that anything is possible. Shortage of manpower definitely is not the main problem. The challenge is to engage political will. If a country like Uganda can latch on to international resources to place 40,000 people on ARVs in the period of a year, I see no reason why it is impossible or even difficult to ensure that the at least 50% of the women who become pregnant each year receive antenatal care, safe blood supplies, and access to emergency obstetric care when necessary.
Lola Oyeleke, Nigeria

To be pregnant in Africa is as dangerous as swimming in a river full of crocodiles
Issaya Ernest, Tanzania

To be pregnant in Africa is as dangerous as swimming in a river full of crocodiles. The problem is aggravated by deep-rooted male dominance in many societies. Yes, women empowerment will help. However I believe there needs to be male counselling prior to any marriage and to ensure that men participate in helping their wives plan the births.
Issaya Ernest, Tanzania

The root cause of maternal deaths is abject poverty and the brain drain that have adversely affected most African countries. Measures to eradicate poverty and the mass exodus of qualified health personnel must be put in place.
Chibwinja Francis, Kitwe, Zambia

Most rural women don't know what it is like giving birth in a modern hospital
Job Egalaha, Kenya

Save for a few women who live in urban areas, most rural women don't know what it is like giving birth in a modern hospital. All they know is the bushes or the banana plantation as a place where midwives perform their duties on them. Some have no idea of pills! They give birth to one kid after another.

This weakens them and increases the death of mums-to-be and babies. More should be done to make mobile, affordable and viable medical care to our women. After all, a generation depends on it. For a rural woman pregnancy will always torment her since she doesn't know what it will be like once the labour pains come!
Job Egalaha, Kenya

Being pregnant in Africa is really terrifying and people really do not know what will happen during delivery. Health facilities are adequate but there are no drugs and the personnel to man those facilities. The shortage of personnel is compounded by the brain drain. Africa is losing a lot of qualified personnel to well developed countries like Europe. These problems could be stopped by restricting qualified personnel from going to developed countries.

Family planning should also be encouraged. Early marriage should also be discouraged by sending young people to school. People should be taught the importance of getting married when they are mentally and financially mature.
Benard Wundaninge Kamenya, Dwangwa, Malawi

Where I come from in Zambia, when a woman has just had a baby we say, "Mwapusukena" to her which roughly means "well done you have survived". Having gone through childbirth myself I now think that this saying came about because childbirth is a matter of life or death for women in my country. Families wonder if the woman or the baby will live. It ought not to be.

Why is it that maternal deaths are a rare occurrence in the West and yet in countries like Zambia over 700 women out of every 100,000 live births die each year due to maternal related causes? If only our governments cared a little bit more and took practical steps to avert maternal deaths such as equipping hospitals, providing maternal health services, training more health personnel and educating our men and women to make informed reproductive choices, we may not lose as many women.
Kabwe Benaya, Kenya

The belief is that children born away from hospitals are stronger
Israel, Cameroon
Women, unfortunately, still put to birth in very unlikely places: farms and at home. I feel very uncomfortable each time I hear a woman in labour away from a hospital. Whilst some rural areas are distant and lack health posts, the problem is compounded by conservative old grand mums who hold steadfast in their obnoxious beliefs that children born away from hospitals are stronger than those born in hospitals. Such beliefs and inaccessibility to hospitals is really a major cause of maternal mortality.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

Excessive poverty and too much sex are the main culprits. The best way to save young mothers from dying is to help them space their children and limit the number. Instead of a woman wearing a veil over her head, we need to ask the man of the house to wear a veil over his penis, it is called a condom.
Chandru Narayan

Being pregnant in a developing nation is like being on a death penalty. The chances of survival are 50%.
Sidney Mwewa, Zambia

My country has been sensitising husbands and wives about safe motherhood, through the use of local languages and English in all media available. With antenatal care, there is no need to panic.
Haggai, Sichalwe, Lusaka, Zambia

The joy of every woman is to give birth to a baby
Lizzie Kwaghbo, Nigeria
I have not being pregnant before, but the joy of every woman is to give birth to a baby. But this is not the case in Africa. The hospitals are not well equipped and you can easily imagine a pregnant woman trekking for about 20-30 kilometres to get to a hospital.
Lizzie Kwaghbo, Nigeria

I myself lost a sister as a result of this problem. The world can do something to help. We ask now to those who are privileged to assist our continent to reduce this long standing problem.
Abubakar Kamara, USA

Your questions are directed at people who are knowledgeable about maternal problems. What you need to do is ask those who are directly affected in villages, those who use traditional birth attendants, those who can use the local language, otherwise you do not give the whole picture. Maternal deaths happen everywhere on earth, but it is the degree which is scaring black Africa. And yes, they can be stopped, but we need to address health and education systems, give people something sustainable to do and add incentives to space out children and childbirth.
Mtamandeni Kalilangwe, Malawi

Mothers are sole bread winners of our African families, so we need to empower then if we are to achieve our millennium development goals.
Fru Winston, Cameroon

My aunty, while about to deliver twins in 1997, had problems in delivering one of the said twins, but, due to an appropriate and immediate visit to doctor, her life and that of the child were saved.
Soliu Luqman, Nigeria

In developed countries, dying during birth is unheard of. Yet in developing countries like Kenya it's still happening. To minimise this problem, we need to stop forced marriages. Child brides are very common across Africa. In addition, most women are denied the right to plan their families.
Josephat Mua, United States

I experienced the pain of loss when my half sister lost her life and her unborn baby in August last year. She died at the hospital after doctors ran short of ideas of how to save her and her baby. Earlier this year, my biological sister delivered a still child. She did not lose her own life, but she lost a lot of blood. This has left her indisposed and looking as thin as a starving refugee. Health facilities in Africa need to be overhauled and manned by more competent personnel.
A Tanko, Ghana

The majority of these deaths are among the poor and un-educated women. Empowering them will ensure that they make informed decisions about when to seek help without waiting endlessly for the man to come back from work before the woman is taken to the hospital.
Dr. Christopher Enakpene, Nigerian in Germany

It is also important for women with complications to reach emergency obstetric care services in time
Musyoka Mua "Makato", Kenya

It's hard to be pregnant in Africa. I think most women need prenatal check-ups and immediate treatment of diseases like malaria and anaemia. In addition to having a skilled attendant during delivery, it is also important for women with complications to reach emergency obstetric care services in time.
Musyoka Mua "Makato", Kenya

A lot of pregnant women are at the mercy of God. A friend just lost the sister recently during child birth. It is pathetic that in this day and age, maternal health is still an issue in Africa. May God help our pregnant women.
Omorodion Osula, USA

There is need to sensitise men to get more involved in maternal health. There is also need for government to support traditional birth attendants in rural places in Africa and to increase resources for reproductive health.
Nkuba Michael, Ireland

Which of the UN goals is most important to you?
Extreme poverty
Primary education
Gender equality
Child mortality
Maternal health
Combating disease
Environmental issues
Economic development
17596 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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